Bianca reports on leg seven: VOR 2017/2018

WHERE IN THE WORLD: Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajai, Brazil

Rumbling along in my bunk I brace myself as we plummet off the next wave accelerating with speed. My hands are aching and the simple task of pulling a small piece of sting to hoist myself further upwards and outboard is a challenge. Wide awake I lie holding on tight as I slide forwards and backwards on my bunk inside a sleeping bag that is the only dry haven on the boat. I patiently wait, telling myself to fall asleep and get some rest. 

 Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

Tap tap tap “15 minutes until you’re on watch.” A sigh of relief, of knowing that I can get out on my bunk and get up on deck. But first the tough exercise of getting ready. The first thing is locating your boots clipped to the end of your bunk, if you’re lucky they’re still dry. Next it’s important to time your dismount from your bunk between waves perfectly as being on the top forward bunk it’s quite a long way down. My base layers are good to go as I’ve slept in them for the last few hours, now doubled up on fleece layers and cozy in my midlayer salopettes a friend lent to me before leaving Auckland it’s time to get into the wet weather gear which takes some skill. Sitting down beneath the bottom bunk I support myself as I remove one foot from my boot at a time to get my trousers on. Next is the smock, which I dread more than anything as my hands feel raw and squeezing them through the seals feels painful. Balaclava, Fleece lined hat, life jacket and bum bag with additional safety gear and I’m good to go. The act of putting on the gear isn’t so much fun but once you’re out there on deck its more than worth it.

 Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

 Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

This leg was a huge milestone for all sailors in the race, another southern ocean leg but a lot further south into the fifties and the honour of rounding Cape Horn. The energy leaving Auckland was incredible. There were so many people cheering us on and I was overcome by how lucky I am to have an incredible support system. I only hope I’m making you all proud.  We had a fantastic start and we were fast heading off up wind as we passed Rangitoto. 

 Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

For the entire Southern Ocean Leg we were contenders. It was a relentless fire hose that could smack you in the face, knock the wind out of you and swept you off your feet but we love it so we brush it off and get back up again. In the south it doesn’t rain it mostly just snows and not the kind of snow that delicately falls on the deck, the kind that burns your cheeks and stings your eyes and yet not a day went by where we didn’t see birds. 

 Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

In 2016 I crossed the top transiting through the North West Passage in style on a super yacht and the conditions were so cold but very comfortable, fast forward to 2018 and I’m passing around the bottom sailing past Cape Horn on a Volvo 65, wet, cold and running on adrenaline. I recall approaching Cape Horn and thinking to myself, is this it? Is this the point in which we, as sailors risk our lives to go around? It was over cast, dark and grey and the salt water was stinging my eyes. But then we got to the light house and I saw it in a different light. We had worked so hard to get here and emotion came flooding over me. Our spirits were lifted and mentally I was glad to have rounded but almost sad to be leaving the Southern Ocean where I had experienced the most intense but greatest sailing of my life.

 Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

 Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

This was by far the toughest leg and we pushed hard.  When we were told the devastating news of Fish, each and every single one of us had to take a moment to reflect on the news. It’s not an easy thing to process out there and you question the situation your in and how this news could be effecting everyone around you. He was an incredible man, extremely humble, supportive of our team and he had a heart of gold. We rounded Cape Horn with Fish, his family and the crew of Skallywag in our thoughts. 

"To the first timers, to the old timers, to those that have gone before and those that will follow after and to those who have not made it, never to be forgotten. Thank you Neptune."

 Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

Once we rounded Cape Horn we faced rig issues as did other teams however the race was far from over and Liz, even with an injured arm battled the rig and made her safe again for us to continue on and fight to get to the finish in fourth place. As we approached the finish line at 2am we were greeted by lots of boats and a crowd of people cheering us on as we got to the dock. 

 Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

 Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

Image Credit: Sam Greenfield

If you had told me this time last year that I would be in Brazil having just sailed from Auckland across the southern ocean around the horn in the Volvo Ocean Race I think I would have fallen over in disbelief. If you’re going to do the Volvo Ocean Race this is the leg that everyone wants to do. This leg is every off shore sailors dream.

Now some down time here in Brazil before the next leg to Newport.

Lots of Love

P.S: I loved it and I want to go back - Sorry Mum

 Before the Southern Ocean - ainhoa sánchez

Before the Southern Ocean - ainhoa sánchez

 After the Southern Ocean - ainhoa sánchez

After the Southern Ocean - ainhoa sánchez